clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
7 Adams, one of San Francisco’s most exciting new restaurants, landed in Japantown in November 2023.
Patricia Chang

17 Essential Places to Eat and Drink in San Francisco’s Historic Japantown

The best spots in the neighborhood for ramen, hard-to-find Japanese sweets, and surprisingly affordable omakase

View as Map
7 Adams, one of San Francisco’s most exciting new restaurants, landed in Japantown in November 2023.
| Patricia Chang

San Francisco’s Chinatown is certainly a don’t-miss destination in its own right, but never forget this city also houses a historic Japantown, and that Japantown extends beyond the walls of the Japan Center Malls. Benkyodo, the 115-year-old mochi shop that closed in 2022, may be gone, but other favorites — such as Patti Smith’s favorite tucked-away restaurant in San Francisco — remain, amongst many other gems. Try any of these Japantown favorites for a taste of some of San Francisco’s best culinary offerings.

Read More
Eater maps are curated by editors and aim to reflect a diversity of neighborhoods, cuisines, and prices. Learn more about our editorial process.

Super Mira

Copy Link

This tidy, well-stocked grocery store is probably best known for being the home of the Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop bakery and its iconic coffee crunch cake. But it’s also got the best bento box and prepared foods selection of any of the city’s Japanese markets, and, during lunch hours, it serves hot meals and even has a small dining area where customers can sit and enjoy their katsudon, curry plate, or udon.

Coffee crunch cake at Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop

Hinodeya Ramen Bar

Copy Link

In a tonkotsu-heavy city, Hinodeya is the rare ramen shop that specializes in lighter, clearer broths, including one of the better bowls of vegan ramen in town. The dashi-based house ramen is a testament to the subtle pleasures of ocean-based umami, and seafood lovers shouldn’t hesitate to get the clam ramen if it’s available. Also a must-order: excellent fried oysters.

7 Adams

Copy Link

The chef-couple behind now-closed Marlena in Bernal Heights took their talents to the Japantown area with the opening of 7 Adams in November 2023. Similar to their prior restaurant, this is a relatively affordable tasting menu option in a city with notoriously sky-high prices; for $87 diners enjoy five seasonal courses, including chef David Fisher’s fresh pasta and chef Serena Chow Fisher’s stunning dessert, among other dishes, of course. Diners can also book an expanded chef’s counter menu, which costs $157 for eight to 10 courses.

Patricia Chang

Daeho Kalbijjim & Beef Soup

Copy Link

At this Korean hot spot, the wait for a table during peak dinner hours can stretch as long as two hours, and almost every dish on the menu features some kind of preparation of beef — kalbitang (or beef rib soup); beef bibimbap; and seolleongtang, the cloudy-white ox bone soup with its noted hangover-curing properties. But Daeho’s real claim to fame is its kalbijjim, the slow-braised, spicy-sweet, fall-off-the-bone beef short rib stew. It’s well worth the wait.

A heaping bowl of beef stew. Luke Tsai

Yuji opened last year, serving kappo-style Japanese food in Japantown, and in that time the small, nine-seat restaurant has garnered a mention in the Michelin Guide, which noted Yuji’s “delicate bites.” The omakase menu will set diners back $158 per person, but given that there are few restaurants that serve this type of food — and at this level — it could well be worth it for the right person.

Yuji

Japantown isn’t all Japanese restaurants these days; in fact, Thai fine dining destination Nari is attached to the Hotel Kabuki — and is the sister restaurant to Michelin-starred Kin Khao. Set in a grand, expansive dining room, Nari checks a lot of boxes: It boasts pretty, elegant plating, big flavors (get the squid and pork jowl dish), and lovely cocktails.

Adahlia Cole

Japantown is naturally known for its wealth of Japanese restaurants, but newcomer Copra is bringing a hit of Indian food to the neighborhood. The restaurant space is gorgeous, with plentiful plants and macrame, and the food is deeply personal to chef Srijith Gopinathan, who’s cooking dishes from his home state of Kerala in India. Make sure to order the chutney palette for the table and dip into the cocktail menu, which comes with fun drinks like the clarified lassi punch.

An overhead view of plates of food. Patricia Chang

A relatively new addition to Japan Center’s bevy of sushi spots, this sleek, modern restaurant offers a little bit of everything — multiple tiers of omakase, all of them quite reasonably priced (especially the $55 chef omakase); a selection of kaiseki-style dishes; and, for those who feel like splurging, the option to order an uni or toro flight. Probably the most popular items are the “mystery boxes”: either six or nine mini chirashi bowls of the chef’s choosing, served in a highly Instagram-friendly partitioned wooden box.

An Japanese Restaurant

Copy Link

There are plenty of higher-end sushi restaurants in the city, but for nigiri lovers looking for a full omakase experience without having to drop well over a hundred bucks a person, An is one of your better bets. Prices have come up in recent years, but omakase for one still starts at a relatively low price ($125) with omakase sashimi beginning at $64 for 10 pieces.

On the Bridge

Copy Link

Located on the walkway that connects the two halves of the Japan Center Mall, this charming, manga-lined spot is also a bridge between cultures and cuisines, as one of San Francisco’s only restaurants that specialize in yoshoku, or Western-style Japanese dishes like hayashi rice and hamburger steak. This is punk icon Patti Smith’s favorite restaurant in San Francisco; work your way through the extensive menu of fish roe-topped Japanese-style pasta dishes, and it might become one of your favorites too.

Sophie's Crepes

Copy Link

Another Japan Center sweets stand that consistently draws long lines (especially on weekends, when the mall floods with kids and teens) Sophie’s Crepes is, of course, best known for its crepes — but not the tender, delicate, butter-soaked French variety. Instead, Sophie’s specializes in the Japanese style, which means the crepes are, for starters, humongous, griddled until they’re crispy on the outside, and then rolled up into a cone to be filled with the sweet or savory toppings of your choice — ham and cheese, perhaps, or ice cream and red bean paste.

Marufuku Ramen

Copy Link

Arriving in San Francisco around the same time as a wave international chains, local ramen outfit Marufuku draws lines that rival any Tokyo import’s quite simply because the noodles and broth are about as good as any in town. Rich, fatty broths — both tonkotsu and chicken-based paitan — are the main draw here, but the soups are balanced and not overly heavy, and the thin, Hakata-style noodles are eminently slurpable.

Yakitori Edomasa

Copy Link

Open since October 2023, Edomasa brings a piece of Tokyo restaurant history to San Francisco. The restaurant traces its roots back to a tiny wooden yakitori cart that started in Japan in 1924. Now, it’s a full service restaurant in the mall with a menu that stars, of course, charcoal-grilled chicken skewers. Put together a meal by choosing from skewers stacked with chicken thigh, heart, and tail or order a set, which includes soup, various skewers, and a rice dish.

Udon Mugizo

Copy Link

If warm udon is on your mind while wandering Japantown, you’d do well to go to Udon Mugizo inside the mall. The noodles are made on-site to ensure a perfect texture, and the plentiful hot and cold broth options guarantee that each diner will have their ideal bowl. The rich tonkotsu broth is always an excellent option if looking for something comforting.

Mentai creamy sauce udon topped with green onions, slivers of seaweed, and pieces of tempura batter from Udon Mugizo in Japantown Lauren Saria/Eater SF

jina bakes

Copy Link

This modern bakery pulls sweet and savory pastries out of the oven six days a week. Expect a menu of Japanese-inspired baked goods such as the locally famous kalbijjim croissant, which comes topped with Korean spicy braised short ribs and melted mozzarella cheese. Other fan favorites include the injeolmi croissant, dusted in roasted soybean powder; matcha, black sesame, and hojicha-filled cream puffs; and slices of burnt Basque cheesecake.

Jina Bakes

The Progress

Copy Link

Though it’s technically in the Western Addition neighborhood, which butts up against Japantown, the Progress (and sister restaurants State Bird Provisions and Anchovy Bar) are just a short walk from the Japan Center Malls. One-Michelin-starred the Progress makes a great spot for group dining with a seasonal menu designed for dining family style. The wine list and cocktails should satisfy even picky drinkers, and whatever you do, don’t skip the roasted duck, an artful platter of meat and peanut fried rice.

Lauren Saria

Miyako Old Fashion Ice Cream

Copy Link

This quaint little ice cream shop — San Francisco’s only Black-owned ice cream shop — feels like an anachronism, with its display of old-fashioned candy and cigarettes for sale amid the tubs of vanilla and Rocky Road. While the ice cream might not be the trendiest in town, it is very good, a decent chunk of it sourced from Mitchell’s, another San Francisco institution, making this the ideal spot to enjoy a scoop of ube or avocado ice cream while strolling Japantown.

Super Mira

This tidy, well-stocked grocery store is probably best known for being the home of the Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop bakery and its iconic coffee crunch cake. But it’s also got the best bento box and prepared foods selection of any of the city’s Japanese markets, and, during lunch hours, it serves hot meals and even has a small dining area where customers can sit and enjoy their katsudon, curry plate, or udon.

Coffee crunch cake at Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop

Hinodeya Ramen Bar

In a tonkotsu-heavy city, Hinodeya is the rare ramen shop that specializes in lighter, clearer broths, including one of the better bowls of vegan ramen in town. The dashi-based house ramen is a testament to the subtle pleasures of ocean-based umami, and seafood lovers shouldn’t hesitate to get the clam ramen if it’s available. Also a must-order: excellent fried oysters.

7 Adams

The chef-couple behind now-closed Marlena in Bernal Heights took their talents to the Japantown area with the opening of 7 Adams in November 2023. Similar to their prior restaurant, this is a relatively affordable tasting menu option in a city with notoriously sky-high prices; for $87 diners enjoy five seasonal courses, including chef David Fisher’s fresh pasta and chef Serena Chow Fisher’s stunning dessert, among other dishes, of course. Diners can also book an expanded chef’s counter menu, which costs $157 for eight to 10 courses.

Patricia Chang

Daeho Kalbijjim & Beef Soup

At this Korean hot spot, the wait for a table during peak dinner hours can stretch as long as two hours, and almost every dish on the menu features some kind of preparation of beef — kalbitang (or beef rib soup); beef bibimbap; and seolleongtang, the cloudy-white ox bone soup with its noted hangover-curing properties. But Daeho’s real claim to fame is its kalbijjim, the slow-braised, spicy-sweet, fall-off-the-bone beef short rib stew. It’s well worth the wait.

A heaping bowl of beef stew. Luke Tsai

YUJI

Yuji opened last year, serving kappo-style Japanese food in Japantown, and in that time the small, nine-seat restaurant has garnered a mention in the Michelin Guide, which noted Yuji’s “delicate bites.” The omakase menu will set diners back $158 per person, but given that there are few restaurants that serve this type of food — and at this level — it could well be worth it for the right person.

Yuji

Nari

Japantown isn’t all Japanese restaurants these days; in fact, Thai fine dining destination Nari is attached to the Hotel Kabuki — and is the sister restaurant to Michelin-starred Kin Khao. Set in a grand, expansive dining room, Nari checks a lot of boxes: It boasts pretty, elegant plating, big flavors (get the squid and pork jowl dish), and lovely cocktails.

Adahlia Cole

Copra

Japantown is naturally known for its wealth of Japanese restaurants, but newcomer Copra is bringing a hit of Indian food to the neighborhood. The restaurant space is gorgeous, with plentiful plants and macrame, and the food is deeply personal to chef Srijith Gopinathan, who’s cooking dishes from his home state of Kerala in India. Make sure to order the chutney palette for the table and dip into the cocktail menu, which comes with fun drinks like the clarified lassi punch.

An overhead view of plates of food. Patricia Chang

Sasa

A relatively new addition to Japan Center’s bevy of sushi spots, this sleek, modern restaurant offers a little bit of everything — multiple tiers of omakase, all of them quite reasonably priced (especially the $55 chef omakase); a selection of kaiseki-style dishes; and, for those who feel like splurging, the option to order an uni or toro flight. Probably the most popular items are the “mystery boxes”: either six or nine mini chirashi bowls of the chef’s choosing, served in a highly Instagram-friendly partitioned wooden box.

An Japanese Restaurant

There are plenty of higher-end sushi restaurants in the city, but for nigiri lovers looking for a full omakase experience without having to drop well over a hundred bucks a person, An is one of your better bets. Prices have come up in recent years, but omakase for one still starts at a relatively low price ($125) with omakase sashimi beginning at $64 for 10 pieces.

On the Bridge

Located on the walkway that connects the two halves of the Japan Center Mall, this charming, manga-lined spot is also a bridge between cultures and cuisines, as one of San Francisco’s only restaurants that specialize in yoshoku, or Western-style Japanese dishes like hayashi rice and hamburger steak. This is punk icon Patti Smith’s favorite restaurant in San Francisco; work your way through the extensive menu of fish roe-topped Japanese-style pasta dishes, and it might become one of your favorites too.

Sophie's Crepes

Another Japan Center sweets stand that consistently draws long lines (especially on weekends, when the mall floods with kids and teens) Sophie’s Crepes is, of course, best known for its crepes — but not the tender, delicate, butter-soaked French variety. Instead, Sophie’s specializes in the Japanese style, which means the crepes are, for starters, humongous, griddled until they’re crispy on the outside, and then rolled up into a cone to be filled with the sweet or savory toppings of your choice — ham and cheese, perhaps, or ice cream and red bean paste.

Marufuku Ramen

Arriving in San Francisco around the same time as a wave international chains, local ramen outfit Marufuku draws lines that rival any Tokyo import’s quite simply because the noodles and broth are about as good as any in town. Rich, fatty broths — both tonkotsu and chicken-based paitan — are the main draw here, but the soups are balanced and not overly heavy, and the thin, Hakata-style noodles are eminently slurpable.

Yakitori Edomasa

Open since October 2023, Edomasa brings a piece of Tokyo restaurant history to San Francisco. The restaurant traces its roots back to a tiny wooden yakitori cart that started in Japan in 1924. Now, it’s a full service restaurant in the mall with a menu that stars, of course, charcoal-grilled chicken skewers. Put together a meal by choosing from skewers stacked with chicken thigh, heart, and tail or order a set, which includes soup, various skewers, and a rice dish.

Udon Mugizo

If warm udon is on your mind while wandering Japantown, you’d do well to go to Udon Mugizo inside the mall. The noodles are made on-site to ensure a perfect texture, and the plentiful hot and cold broth options guarantee that each diner will have their ideal bowl. The rich tonkotsu broth is always an excellent option if looking for something comforting.

Mentai creamy sauce udon topped with green onions, slivers of seaweed, and pieces of tempura batter from Udon Mugizo in Japantown Lauren Saria/Eater SF

jina bakes

This modern bakery pulls sweet and savory pastries out of the oven six days a week. Expect a menu of Japanese-inspired baked goods such as the locally famous kalbijjim croissant, which comes topped with Korean spicy braised short ribs and melted mozzarella cheese. Other fan favorites include the injeolmi croissant, dusted in roasted soybean powder; matcha, black sesame, and hojicha-filled cream puffs; and slices of burnt Basque cheesecake.

Jina Bakes

Related Maps

The Progress

Though it’s technically in the Western Addition neighborhood, which butts up against Japantown, the Progress (and sister restaurants State Bird Provisions and Anchovy Bar) are just a short walk from the Japan Center Malls. One-Michelin-starred the Progress makes a great spot for group dining with a seasonal menu designed for dining family style. The wine list and cocktails should satisfy even picky drinkers, and whatever you do, don’t skip the roasted duck, an artful platter of meat and peanut fried rice.

Lauren Saria

Miyako Old Fashion Ice Cream

This quaint little ice cream shop — San Francisco’s only Black-owned ice cream shop — feels like an anachronism, with its display of old-fashioned candy and cigarettes for sale amid the tubs of vanilla and Rocky Road. While the ice cream might not be the trendiest in town, it is very good, a decent chunk of it sourced from Mitchell’s, another San Francisco institution, making this the ideal spot to enjoy a scoop of ube or avocado ice cream while strolling Japantown.

Related Maps